What is the opposite of per se?

Answered by Jason Smith

The opposite of per se is often considered to be per accidens. The term per se refers to something that is inherent or essential to a particular thing or concept, while per accidens refers to something that is coincidental or non-essential.

To understand this distinction better, let’s take an example. Imagine a doctor who is also a good pianist. The fact that the doctor is skilled at playing the piano is not an essential or inherent quality of being a doctor. It is merely a coincidental or non-essential attribute. Therefore, we could say that the doctor’s skill in playing the piano is per accidens to their role as a doctor.

In a broader sense, per se is used to indicate that something is true or applicable in and of itself, independent of any external factors. It implies a direct and inherent relationship. On the other hand, per accidens suggests a relationship that is not fundamental or necessary, but rather dependent on external circumstances or chance.

It’s worth noting that the terms per se and per accidens are often used in philosophical and theological contexts, particularly in discussions about essential properties and accidental attributes. However, the concept of per se and per accidens can be applied more broadly to various situations and contexts.

To summarize, the opposite of per se is per accidens, with per se denoting something that is essential or inherent, and per accidens referring to something that is coincidental or non-essential. Understanding this distinction can help clarify the nature of relationships and qualities in different contexts.